Well, I made it back. The 2018 Midwest Muscle Car Challenge, provided by Bowler Performance with a slew of sponsors including Detroit Speed, Prestone, Forgeline, BF Goodrich, and a slew of smaller sponsors was every bit as fun as last year, plus some.
The big relief for everybody was the rain, rather the lack of it. The spectre of storms was over our heads the entire weekend, but they held off. All of the road course sessions on Friday were dry, and we got almost a dozen timed runs in at the autocross course on Saturday before a squall shut us down.
We all arrived at Putnam Park at 7am and unloaded. The contingent from Kentucky consisted of myself, Eric Brown and his Corvette Z06, and Brian Shelley with his Camaro ZL1.
Things went smoothly in the morning. 10/10ths knows how to run a track day. I ran in the novice group again, and had a fantastic instructor.
The first session was good. I got back into familiarity with the track. The second session I opened up the taps. The car was wonderful. All the work seemed to pay off. It was fast. It handled well. It stopped, finally. Turn seven had scared me a bunch last year, because I could fly through five and six, but then had to make the choice of lifting too early to scrub speed or pray. I went two off in seven several times last year.
Not this year. The car can put the nose on the ground.
Even better, I was hitting 125 on the front straight. That’s 15mph faster than last year. This engine is potent. Here’s my best lap from the morning sessions:
Now, despite the faster car, I was running the same times as last year. 1:28. But it took me all day to get down to a 1:28 last year. This happened in the second session.
After lunch, things got frustrating. I was going really rich in the straights and it was bogging, like it had been at NOLA. I double checked all the charge pipes and kept running. I was only topping out at about 111 in the straight, but I managed to shave a second off my time by driving better.
After the fourth session of the day, Eric noticed my wastegate bolts had backed out. I was leaking exhaust pressure out, which was preventing the car from making enough boost. Later, I also found the driver side header had changed shape and pulled the cross-under pipe out of the passenger side up-pipe, creating another exhaust leak.
We packed it in and headed back to the hotel, only to unload again and head to dinner.
On the way back from dinner, Eric’s car started making horrible noises. Turns out he had left the stability control on during the road course sessions, and it ate his rear brakes down to the backing plates. He ran to the parts store, which luckily had a set of pads, and swapped them in the parking lot.
The next morning was autocross. Once again, it was a small, mostly first gear course at the Terre Haute airport.
I got crushed. The MMC puts the model year cutoff for early/late at 1980, so I was lumped in with all the Corvettes and new Camaros. It was a bloodbath. I think I was second from last despite not driving terribly.
I did get gridded next to the RideTech 48-hour Camaro, which was cool.
The awards were after the shootout, where the top five in each of the two classes (early and late) run three runs back to back, and the times are added. Whoever has the best combined time wins. I’m happen to say Eric won in the late class, besting several excellent drivers, including Danny Popp, the living legend of Corvette racing.
I also got reprimanded by Mac’s Tie Downs for having janky ratchet straps. As punishment, they gave me a whole new set!
So, once again, a fantastic even put on by Bowler Performance. This event really is the highlight of my year. Everybody is friendly, the driving is fun. It’s low key and everybody has a great time. I’ll be back again next year!
My next event is the Optima Search For the Ultimate Street car at NCM June 2-3. I’ve fixed the exhaust leaks, and I’ve added a larger intercooler to the car, which should cut my intake temps by a large amount. Stay tuned for the recap from that event!